Career Profile: Selling Pet Insurance
Pet insurance agents offer health insurance coverage policies for a variety of pet species. The primary duty of a pet insurance agent is to market insurance policies to pet owners. Pet insurance serves to minimize sudden significant veterinary costs in the event that a medical situation should arise. Pet insurance is technically a subcategory of property and casualty insurance, and claims are submitted to the insurance company for processing after veterinary treatment is administered.
The average pet insurance policy costs a little over $300 per year, with many plans being offered at a rate of $20 to $30 per month. The pet insurance agent also takes into consideration various factors such as the age and species of the pet, as well as what types of coverage the owner will want to include (i.e. surgery, routine preventative care, prescription drugs) when determining the cost of the policy. Discounts may be available for multiple pet households.
While dogs and cats are the most frequently insured pets, there are various plans available for birds, reptiles, and other exotic species.
Insurance reps must constantly educate themselves about the insurance industry, advances in veterinary medicine, and their company’s specific plan options. The insurance company may offer a variety of training courses on a regular basis to keep their agent’s knowledge up to date.
Pet insurance agents, much like veterinary pharmaceutical sales reps, can either have inside sales or field sales positions. The majority of pet insurance sales positions are office based “inside sales” jobs, but field sales positions do exist.
Inside sales positions do not involve much (if any) travel; reps conduct business over the phone or online. Field sales positions require frequent travel throughout a designated territory, as the reps visit veterinary offices, pet stores, conventions, and pet industry trade shows to market their company’s insurance products.
The largest U.S. employer in the pet insurance industry is VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance), founded in 1982. Other major insurance providers include PetCare, PetPlan, AKC Pet Partners, and Trupanion.
Education & Training
Pet insurance agents often have a degree in business or a related field. Agents should have experience with writing, public speaking, marketing techniques, and computer-based technology.
Ideally, pet insurance agents will also have prior experience working in an animal health-related field, preferably in a veterinary clinic, so they will already be familiar with medical treatments and terminology.
Agents must be licensed by the state in which they plan to sell insurance services. Requirements for licensing can vary from state to state, but most jurisdictions require a preparatory course, exam, and continuing education credits to maintain their license. The states with the highest numbers of licensed insurance agents are Florida, Texas, California, New York, and Illinois.
Total compensation for pet insurance agents may include a combination of base salary, commission, bonuses, and health care benefits. Field agents may also have use of a company car and business expense account. Total earnings may also vary widely based on sales volume and years of experience, but most pet insurance agents can currently expect to earn between $30,000 and $100,000 per year.
The 2010 survey by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics survey reported that the median annual earnings of insurance agents were $46,770. The middle 50 percent earned between $33,070 and $68,730 per year. The lowest 10 percent of agents earned less than $26,000 per year, while the highest 10 percent of agents pulled in more than $113,000 per year.
Pet owners are looking for ways to minimize the costs of treatment for their pet’s injuries and illnesses in increasing numbers. The number of insured pets has increased steadily over the past several years. Market research indicates that the pet insurance industry pulled in over $350 million in 2009, a growth of 14% from the revenue earned in 2008. This solid rate of growth was projected to continue for the next five years.
According to an article in the New York Times, less than 1% of all cats and dogs are currently insured, but the industry has shown marked signs of growth for the past several years. While there are only about 20 companies offering pet insurance, and less than 1,000 agents offering representation, that number is expected to increase steadily over the next decade.
While the Bureau of Labor and Statistics does not separate data specifically for pet agents, their survey indicates that the number of jobs for all insurance agents will increase at a solid rate of approximately 12% from 2008 to 2018.